CHICAGO (CBS) — A South Side woman said she gave a man $30,000 to build her nail salon – and yet a year later, the job is not even close to complete.

CBS 2’s Tim McNicholas discovered the contractor is not even properly registered with the state.

“What you should be seeing by now is the floors done, the plumbing done,” said Cherry Washington.

Washington is a woman with a dream.

“All the manicure tables would have been on this side,” she said as she showed McNicholas the space.

There were contractors working on building Washington a small nail salon at 54th Street and Harlem Avenue when she talked to McNicholas. But those contractors were not the team she originally hired – they were replacements.

They came in after the original contractor fell short of his promises.

“When I tell you it’s been many a days that I cried, I did,” Washington said. “Many a days that I prayed for him, I did.”

In October 2019, Washington hired Derek Covington and Renewable Energy Concepts, who said the whole job would cost $34,000. They asked for $12,000 up front.

Covington’s team cleared out the old storefront and then convicted Washington to make more payments. But since then, she has seen little work and plenty of excuses.

“I was taking pictures. I was coming over at nighttime to figure out what’s going on. And I’m like, ‘Everything looks the same,’” Washington said, “and he was like: ‘Well, it’s the plumber. It’s the heating. It’s this. It’s that. It’s COVID.”

We’ve reported similar stories in the past about people losing thousands to other contractors who didn’t finish the job. So we wondered, what can a person do to avoid trouble with a contractor?

Experts say you should always check that they’re properly licensed. The Illinois Secretary of State’s office said Renewable Energy Concepts is not – their LLC dissolved in 2016 and they should not be operating at all.

“Furious,” Washington said, “frustrated because its ‘been almost a year now because this is October now – for a long time dream to come true and just trying to hold on and keep my faith.”

We looked for Covington at the address on the contract, but his office is not there anymore. He eventually sent us several emails claiming he spent $29,000 on the project, but he would not send us the receipts.

As for the delays, he claimed a plumber stole him and an architect misled and overcharged him.

But that architect said Covington still owes him more than $2,000.

“He takes the lady’s money and he hasn’t done the job,” said the architect, Firmin Senga. “This is not how you conduct business, OK? And because when I was talking to him and I was telling him, ‘Listen, you have to let this woman know what is going on.’”

Washington is hoping to open her nail salon sometime in mid-November. That is the light she is looking forward to at the end of the tunnel.

The Secretary of State’s office said they will be reaching out to Renewable Energy Concepts because they are not a properly registered LLC.

We have asked how the city obtained a permit, and it said they don’t verify the LLC.

Covington told McNicholas in an email that he is still willing to complete the job, but the city told said construction registration is no longer active – although it was active when he first applied for the permit for the job.

 

Tim McNicholas